4 Keys to Management Success

If you are a manager, you’ve probably learned that it is one of those things that looks pretty easy from the outside, but can turn out to be difficult to do well when you actually try it. Managers have to perform a number of different functions and play a variety of roles. It’s an active – proactive – process that requires a number of different qualities, skills and abilities.

Take a moment and think about it. Based on your experiences – whether as a manager or having seen managers in action – What does it take to be effective? Write your ideas down on a piece of paper before you read any farther.

If you are like most of my clients you probably wrote qualities like: effective communicator, organized, good delegator. They are all great answers! But let me give you another way of thinking about this – a formula for management effectiveness. I want to give you an equation.

Now before you flashback to ninth grade algebra and start getting anxious, let me acknowledge that this is more of a metaphor for management effectiveness than a strict algebraic equation. It gives us a framework within which we can talk about the key variables and their relationships to one another. Ok, enough disclaimers. Here’s the formula:


Maybe this equation will be a little more useful if I define the variables for you. Oh, by the way, it’s not reflected in the equation, but keep in mind that the variables are not all created equal. I’ll talk about their relative weights a little later in the post.

TS – Technical Skill

Variable number one is TS and that stands for Technical Skill. All I mean by technical skill is the job specific knowledge required to perform the work. For some types of positions the Technical Skills are very apparent. An IT manager might benefit from having knowledge about particular operating systems, or the ability to write a particular programming language. But every job has technical skills. One of my kids took a summer job at Starbucks. There are technical skills involved in being a Barista at Starbucks.

QT – Quality of Thinking.

QT stands for Quality of Thinking: How well do you take in and process information, and ultimately make good decisions? Part of the quality of your thinking is going to be affected by your intellectual horsepower. We all know people who seem to have a lot of “horses under their proverbial hoods”. They seem to have a depth and breadth of knowledge. They think quickly, make intuitive leaps. They are insightful. But there is – thank god – more to Quality of Thinking than just intellectual horsepower. Our critical thinking skill has an impact as well.

Think of it this way. Your intellectual horsepower represents the vehicle that you are driving. Your critical thinking skill represents your ability to drive the vehicle. Imagine two cars at the starting line of a race. One is a high-performance racing machine with 700 horsepower, racing tuned suspension, big, wide racing tires all the way around. The other car is a 1982 Ford Escort with 317 thousand miles on the original engine and transmission. Who is going to win that race? You are probably leaning towards the race-car, right? But how about if I told you that it was my 16-year-old nephew behind the wheel of that high performance racing machine. Would you still bet the house and dog? I hope not, for your dog’s sake.

It is pretty clear that in the racing analogy the power of the car is a factor, but not the only factor affecting the outcome. The skill of the driver can have a lot to do with the final results. Likewise, with Quality of Thinking. Intellectual horsepower is only as good as the critical thinking skills of the person making the decision. One of the reasons that this distinction matters is that by the time you are old enough to be interested in management, there is probably not a whole heck of a lot that anybody is going to be able to do to boost your intellectual horsepower. What you have is what you have. Actually, after a certain point, holding on to what you have left is the challenge. But regardless of where you are at in your life or your career you can learn new critical thinking skills, new ways of looking at a situation or processing information; new ways of structuring your decision-making. So variable number two is Quality of Thinking.

IM – Interpersonal Mastery

IM stands for Interpersonal Mastery. Simply put, how do you relate to other people.

  • Can you create connections between yourself and others?
  • Are you able to build rapport and emotional affinity?
  • How effectively do you communicate?
  • Are you able to feel and demonstrate empathy?

All are important for creating positive work relationships.

Are all three equally important?

As a manager, technical skill, quality of thinking and interpersonal mastery are all important, but according to the research, they are not all equally important. Technical skills seem to be important for credibility. They may, in some ways, be a prerequisite for effective management, but technical skill on its own doesn’t equate with managerial success. As a matter of fact, over reliance on technical skill can lead to management dysfunction. It can take a manager away from the things that have to be done to be effective as a manager. So think of technical skill as your ticket to the dance. It gets you in the door, but it doesn’t ensure that you have a good time.

Quality of thinking matters as well. The quality of our decisions affects much of what we do. But most of what makes management, management, isn’t about the cognitive and analytical. It is about relationships and the behaviors that develop them. IM is probably the most important of the three additive variables. Management is, after all, “Getting the right things done through and with other people”. Interpersonal Mastery is the skill set that enables a manager to build trust, communicate clear expectations and direction, provide feedback to reinforce good performance and coach employees to make improvements in their skills and ultimately their performance. Interpersonal Mastery rocks!

MS – Mindset

But there is another variable that we haven’t talked about yet. In the Management Effectiveness Formula it sits outside the parentheses and it affects all three of the additive variables. Variable number four is MS, which stands for Mindset. Mindset reflects our internal state; the emotions, attitudes and beliefs that may be hidden beneath the surface to one degree or another. Those emotions, attitudes and beliefs directly affect our thinking and interactions with others. In many ways they drive our behaviors, whether we are aware of it or not.

Let me give you an example. One of the training seminars that I offer is called Influencing: Getting things Done When You Don’t Have Authority. In that seminar we deal with the skills needed to navigate the political landscape of your organization. Organizational politics is one of those topics that tends to evoke some interesting Mindsets. Some participants in every workshop come in with the Mindset that organizational politics are irrelevant. They believe that they work in a meritocracy; That good performance will stand on its own and rise to the top. They believe that a good idea doesn’t need an advocate. Because of their Mindset they don’t actively participate in the political process. They focus their time and attention on the technical side of the equation and allow the rest of the chips to fall where they may. And as a result, they often become frustrated when their good ideas aren’t embraced by the rest of the organization. Their Mindset about organizational politics affects how they participate in that process, which in turn affects the results that they attain.

People often approach the idea of Mindset as if they have no control over it. It is what it is. But Mindset doesn’t have to be that way. We can become aware of and more in control of our attitudes and emotions. The more conscious we become of our Mindset the more control we gain over our reactions and behaviors. The more adaptable and resilient we become.

The variables I’ve just described in the effectiveness equation aren’t static and fixed sums . You can do something about them. You can learn new skills, gain insight into your style and preferences. You can develop self-knowledge and control that will allow you to increase your behavioral and emotional flexibility. You can become a more effective manager. And that, as Martha Stewart used to say, is a good thing!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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